Uncomfortable Flying Without the Mask Mandate? These Airlines May Offer You a Refund

Through various refund policies, U.S. airlines may be able to accommodate passengers.

Passengers make their way through Delta Airlines Terminal Two at Los Angeles International Airport
Photo: Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

One week ago, a federal judge in Florida voided the federal transportation mask mandate and most airports and major airlines in the United States dropped masking requirements. But not everyone may be comfortable taking to the skies without knowing their fellow passengers are masking up.

With passengers in mind, United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby told the Today Show last week that people who are uncomfortable flying — like parents with young children who are not yet eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine — may be offered a credit or a refund.

"For customers like that, that are immunocompromised or that have other concerns or issues… we are working with those customers if they really don't want to fly," he said, adding, "if they just really don't ever want to fly again, [we're] actually willing to give them a refund."

When reached by Travel + Leisure, a spokeswoman for United Airlines pointed to the carrier's change policy, which allows no-fee changes for all tickets except basic economy fares. Earlier this month, United also said it will allow customers with basic economy tickets to either upgrade to a standard economy ticket or cancel it for a fee.

United has also extended the window to redeem flight credits through Dec. 31, 2023.

"We understand that many people remain concerned about COVID. Any of our customers or employees who prefer to wear a mask are welcome to do so," the spokeswoman told T+L. "In addition, HEPA air filtration on our aircraft makes the air you breathe on board the cleanest you'll encounter anywhere."

A spokeswoman for American Airlines told T+L that AAdvantage members may use their flight credits for travel through the end of 2022, but that basic economy tickets purchased after March 31, 2021, are no longer eligible for any changes or refunds.

"We work to accommodate customers in their individual situations and we do have an existing policy (pre-Covid) that makes exceptions for people with illnesses or health-related issues prior to traveling on American," the spokeswoman said.

A representative for Southwest Airlines pointed to the company's "everyday flexible policies," but said customers traveling on "Wanna Get Away" fares are only able to convert the value of an unused ticket into a credit for a future flight and are unable to receive a cash refund.

For their part, a spokesperson for Alaska Airlines told the Los Angeles Times the carrier would "work with guests on a case-by-case basis if they're not comfortable flying."

A Delta spokesperson told The Associated Press that requests for trip cancellations will be made on a case-by-case basis.

Representatives for Alaska Airlines, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue, Spirit Airlines, and Hawaiian Airlines did not immediately respond to requests for comment from T+L.

Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she's not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.

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